After a prolonged bout of bitter cold, ice and snow, a flip of the calendar will seem like a near-magical switchover from winter to spring.
Despite the frosty glaze that greeted drivers and pedestrians on an especially dreary Monday morning, that's no April Fool's joke. Starting Tuesday, look for normal and even above-normal readings for the rest of the week and beyond -- highs near or above 50 and several days of sunny skies followed by occasional April showers.
Long-time Berkshirites who described the past winter as among the worst they can recall had good reason to complain.
It was the coldest March in the 75 years of record-keeping at Pittsfield Municipal Airport. The January through March averages vaulted the season into the top 10 coldest winters in the county.
The storm that grazed western New England over the weekend finally moved out into the Atlantic off Long Island, N.Y., on Monday, leaving Berkshire rivers and streams swollen following a 2-inch rainfall over three days, as measured at the Pittsfield airport. Slightly less was recorded at Harriman & West Airport in North Adams, at 1.75 inches.
But no significant flooding was reported along the Housatonic and Hoosic rivers, according to hydrologists at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.
The arrival of tranquil, pleasant spring conditions -- daytime highs in the 50s, overnight lows in the 30s or slightly lower -- should come as a boon for the long-delayed, still below-par maple syrup season.
Looking back at March, temperatures were below normal -- often drastically -- on 24 out of the month's 31 days. The average, at 25 degrees, was 7 degrees below the norm, a sharp deviation not seen locally since 1940 and 1960, the two years that came closest. In Albany, N.Y., where government record-keeping began in 1820, even colder March averages were recorded during several 19th century years.
Heating fuel consumption and costs for the past month ran 20 percent above the long-term Berkshire average. Snowfall was far below normal, however; only 1 inch was measured at the Pittsfield airport and 5 inches in North Adams, compared to March averages of 13 to 15 inches countywide.
This week, the lengthening daylight, higher early April sun angle and a strong fair-weather system parked over the region will create a string of pleasant days, according to forecaster Tom Wasula's outlook from the National Weather Service in Albany. There's only a chance of occasional showers at mid-week, with a more significant rainfall possible next weekend.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto
March: Top 10 coldest ...
Here are the average temperatures for the months recorded at Pittsfield Municipal Airport since 1938:
2014: 25.0 degrees
The following March averages are from the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., where records date back to 1820:
Sources: Eagle archives; AccuWeather.com; National Weather Service in Pittsfield and in Albany, N.Y.